Even if you have only a passing interest in today's popular music, I urge you to pay attention to the loathsome record nominated this week by Washington Post staff writer David Segal as the "Best Album" of 2001. It's a stomach-turning example of anti-Americanism disguised as highbrow intellectual expression.
According to Segal, "Party Music" by a rap group called "The Coup" topped all other musical works produced this year. Segal praises the album's "jarring ingenuity, soul and wit." The "poetry" of lead rapper Boots Riley "dazzles." The songs are "masterfully entertaining" and "daggone funky."
Segal seems hardly bothered by the original cover art for Riley's album. The revolting photo depicted the Oakland, Calif.-based rapper and his sidekick -- militant left-wing anti-capitalists -- partying in front of a doctored image of the World Trade Center being blown up. While the twin towers burn, a sneering Riley poses in the foreground with a guitar tuner being used as a bomb detonator. His sidekick, "Pam the Funkstress," stands defiantly with a conductor's baton in each hand while fireballs engulf the buildings.
The rappers posed for the picture, which Riley proudly describes as a "metaphor for the capitalist state being destroyed through the music," last spring. Days after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, Riley's record company pulled the photo. But after paying hollow respect to the victims at Ground Zero, Riley protested Warner/Elektra's decision to abandon the cover art. A self-identified "communist" and son of a Black Panther lawyer, Riley says he wanted to spread the message that "the blood that happened on (Sept. 11) is on the hands of the U.S. government."
Segal, the enamored music critic, shrugs off Riley's murderous and morally equivalent imagery as harmless "bad timing." He laments that the uproar over the photo overshadowed The Coup's lyrics, which he deems "hip-hop's finest rhymes this year."
Fine. Let's put aside The Coup's bloody terrorist fantasies for a moment, and take a closer look at the group's "poetry." The first single released off the album, titled "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO," includes the following verses:
5 million ways to kill a CEO
Slap him up and shake him up
and then you know
Let him off the floor
Then bait him with the dough
You can do it funk or do it disco ...
Toss a dollar in the river and when he jump in
If you find he can swim, put lead boots on him and do it again
You and a friend videotape and the party don't end
Another track, titled "Lazymuthaf-cka" (which Segal calls "amusing"), attacks American entrepreneurs and businessmen -- the very kind who worked at the World Trade Center and died by the thousands on Sept. 11:
You ain't never learned to drive or tie your shoe
I got my ear to the street and my eye on you
You got a secretary to write down your thoughts
On how to make us work hard and fatten up your vaults ...
You're a lazy muthaf-cka! Lazy muthaf-cka!
You're a lazy muthaf-cka! Lazy muthaf-cka!"
And the song "Pork and Beef" indulges in violent anti-cop-bashing:
If you got beef with c-o-p's
Throw a Molotov at the p-i-g's
Cuz they be harassing you and me
You got to understand that we still not free ...
The Coup has been singing its crude "Hate America" tune -- and earning praise from media sympathizers like Segal -- for years. One of the group's most infamous songs, "(Expletive) On Your Grave," includes a scene in which Riley tours Arlington National Cemetery and stops to urinate on George Washington's burial ground. Instead of being grateful for a country that allows him to peddle such garbage for profit, Riley boils with hypocritical resentment. The American flag, he says, "symbolizes oppression, exploitation, racism, slavery and murder."
I'm sick of America getting a bad rap from miserable "artists" like Boots Riley. He belongs in a capitalism-free cave in Tora Bora, spewing his "poetry" around an al Qaeda campfire. But I'm even sicker of Riley's cultural defenders in the elite media. Sept. 11 brought home the lesson that vile ideas have bloody consequences -- no matter how "daggone funky" they may sound to mush-headed music critics. We continue to ignore the intellectual enablers of anti-Americanism at our peril.